Whitefish Interior Designer Sentenced to Prison for Fraud Scheme

Jennifer Michele Helm in November pleaded guilty to wire fraud in federal court and must serve more than four years in prison and is ordered to pay $933,697 in restitution

By Maggie Dresser
The Russell Smith Federal Courthouse in Missoula. | Tommy Martino/Daily Montanan

A 45-year-old Whitefish interior designer who admitted to defrauding customers of about $900,000 and using the money for personal expenses was sentenced on March 14 to four years and three months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $933,679 in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Jennifer Michele Helm, who is also referred to as Jennifer Michele, pleaded guilty in November 2023 to wire fraud and to aggravated identity theft before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen.

According to documents and statements in court, Helm defrauded more than 20 customers while doing business as Sage Interior Design, LLC, Interior Design Service, and Jennifer Michele LLC starting in 2016.

Some of the victims came forward after Helm pleaded guilty, and Helm defrauded four more victims after her interview with the FBI in 2021, when she presumably knew she was a target of a federal criminal investigation.

To execute the scheme, Helm entered into agreements with customers to provide goods and services, usually by promising to order furnishings and fixtures as part of construction and remodeling projects. In some instances, Helm presented her clients with invoices for items she knew she had not ordered and that clients never received.

Additionally, Helm convinced a married couple to give her their credit card number, which she was authorized to use to make purchases on the couple’s behalf. Helm did not make those purchases and instead used the credit card and directed the proceeds of the transactions into her bank account.

Helm told the FBI she was responsible for any misspent funds in an interview.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot prosecuted the case. The FBI conducted the investigation.